The Haunting Concentration Camp That Had Its Own Orchestra

The light of culture in a world of darkness

Grant Piper

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(Public domain)

The names of infamous concentration camps have stood the test of time. Names like Auschwitz, Dachau, and Bergen-Belson have endured due to the tragedies that unfolded there. One name that is rarely remembered is Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt, or the Theresienstadt Ghetto, was a holding camp in which Jews were sent to wait until they could be assigned to various extermination camps throughout Europe. Due to its purpose as a holding pen, the rules and life within the camp were completely different from any other. There was minimal forced labor at Theresienstadt, and there were no concerted extermination efforts.

Out of Theresienstadt come stories of culture, perseverance, and sadness. Theresienstadt had its own orchestra and was home to some of Europe’s greatest composers, musicians, lecturers, and rabbis. The uniqueness of Theresienstadt is worthy of study and worthy of remembrance.

A Concentration Camp A Place Of Culture?

(Public domain)

In 1943 and 1944, Theresienstadt Ghetto existed as a place of flourishing culture surrounded by the darkness of World War II and the impending Holocaust. The Theresienstadt Ghetto, often shortened to just Terezin, the town where the camp was located, was home to thousands of Jews from all across Europe. Terezin was a holding area where people were shipped until they were selected for extermination in a death camp. Due to this, there were dozens of lecturers, rabbis, musicians, and teachers living side by side.

Under German law, things like making music and teaching the Jewish faith were illegal. The Germans labeled these activities “degenerate art” and participating in them elsewhere in the Reich was akin to a death sentence. However, due to Terezin's reality, the camp officials turned a blind eye to these kinds of activities. That is because the Germans knew what the Jews did not. Everyone living in Terezin was slated to die, so why deprive them of their culture in their last moments? To the Germans, it didn’t matter if the Jews taught and…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.